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Monday, July 26, 2021
Judgment and Prediction: U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan Undergoes Adjustments
Chan Kung

On April 14, U.S. President Joe Biden went a step further on the track of his predecessor Donald Trump by officially announcing the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which will undoubtedly end Washington's longest war, but also inevitably leave huge problems.

The situation in Afghanistan has fallen into an unprecedented complexity. However, the development of the overall state of affairs in Afghanistan is as what ANBOUND has predicted in the past, that there is no unexpected development, but only the fluctuations of the situations and the huge impact on the U.S. military operations around the "world island".

As for the United States, Chan Kung, founder of ANBOUND, believes that Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken obviously had underestimated the consequences of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This is not just merely simple military withdrawal and reducing the casualty rate, but it is actually a move that will shake the trust and support of countries around the world for the U.S. order, and the damage caused may be comparable to the impact caused by Trump. Countries in the world, especially the third world countries, will further realize that the U.S. is not only a problem-solving country, but also a problem-creating country. Strictly speaking, this is true to most countries, and there is no country in the world that has the ability to solve the Afghan issue. That said, the U.S. will feel the impact as it is its troops that are being withdrawn.

Under such development, it may be difficult for the U.S. to take large-scale ground intervention operations in the future, as it might neither receive strong support from its allies nor even provide a reliable plan of action. The withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan has exposed a trend that, from a geopolitical perspective, has transformed the U.S.from five armed forces into one major armed force - the Air Force.

When it comes to the relations between China and Afghanistan, Chan Kung is of the opinion that China has already made some preparations. This can be seen from the frequent changes in commander of the PLA's Western Theatre Command (WTC). It is highly possible that the most eventful border regions of China will not be its southeastern coastal area, but the western region. It is expected that the Chinese military may intervene in operations in Afghanistan in exchange for more geopolitical bargaining chips.

It is worth noting that as the influence of Russia and China in Afghanistan becomes more prominent, the U.S. is bound to feel the pressure. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who led the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, would likely pay the price, and this may cause him to finally lose his position in the Department of State. Blinken has shown many observable weaknesses from the beginning, and he will certainly pay for them in the future.

While the events escalated quickly, Blinken was also fast in implementing Biden's policy decisively and demanded that the U.S. forces to withdraw from Afghanistan. Such move has expectedly drawn strong criticism from the military and opposition from Congress. Biden is now gradually convinced by the Congress and the military about the serious consequences of a hasty withdrawal of troops. As Blinken now becomes more quiet and low-key, the U.S. military's strategy in Afghanistan also began to adjust.

It can now be seen that most of the substantive operations are carried out around the interests of the U.S. military, an indication that the dominant player is not Blinken's State Department but the U.S. military. The first thing that was solved the problem of translation in Afghanistan, which was the focus of attention of the U.S. military. The second is large-scale military assistance. It is said that US$3.3 billion in military assistance will be provided to the Afghan government forces. The third is the large-scale deployment of U.S. naval and air forces to carry out air strikes and participate in the defense of Kandahar. The importance of the defense war in Kandahar has already been noted by Chan Kung in the past, in which it is a key indicator of whether the Afghan government can persist. Losing Kandahar is tantamount to the collapse of the Afghan government.

There is one question remains, i.e. how the role of the U.S. naval and air forces in Afghanistan.

Chan Kung believes that the U.S. will treat the Afghan battlefield as a window of modern form of intervention. The old forms of intervention are now obsolete, and modern Americans no longer believe in them. For example, in contrast to earlier cases such as the Vietnam and Yugoslav wars, the U.S. military now has to be able to convince a large group of people, including members of Congress, generals, the Wall Street, technology entrepreneurs, and even the parents of soldiers on the "war that works". The involvement of U.S. naval and air forces is therefore expected to continue on a larger scale and may be prolonged until it is clear that the Afghan government is benefiting from it and the war's achievements are translated into a successful and persuasive political case.

From the perspective of the new war model, an important question is whether a maritime force, mainly the sea-based air forces, can achieve its objectives without the support of land bases and army forces. Could large-scale and low-cost unmanned reconnaissance and strike aircraft fleets become the primary means of intervention in geopolitical warfare? Judging from the current situation and prospects of the technology and equipment, this is certainly possible. If all of this can be achieved, then the means of a new generation of war intervention, such as "air warfare", "air intervention", and "spatial superiority" will almost be available.This is an important shift from "universal warfare" to "partial domain warfare", a new chapter in geopolitical warfare.

If "universal warfare" is a mode of war between major powers, then "partial domain warfare" will be a new model of geopolitical intervention.This kind of war will be a military intervention mode that minimizes costs. Therefore, it is actually a more dangerous mode of war, and more likely to appear globally.

While this appears to be localized war, there are essential differences of it with partial domain warfare. The reality is that, "localized war" does not actually exist, as wars often involved in multiple countries; the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Yugoslavia Wars, and the Iraq War are but some of the examples. Localized war is generally not supported by technological equipment and geopolitics, since as long as it is a land-based war, it would involve in a number of countries, and will surely bring deep impacts on global geopolitics structurally. As the interfering factors have now disappeared while the conditions for partial domain warfare are complete, we can expect that the era of partial domain warfare has just begun.

For detailed information tracking of the Afghanistan issues, please refer to ANBOUND Analyst Research & Discussion Group platform.

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